December 18, 2021
Montana, Opinions

Protesting non-union, out-of-state labor on wind farm project

Guest view: Protesting non-union, out-of-state labor on wind farm project | Jim Wonnacott | Montana Standard |

As most in our community know, the Colstrip coal-fired power plant has been dismantling equipment and preparing for closure. With the plant winding down, that leaves a number of Montanans that have lost, or will soon lose, their jobs and livelihoods.

To replace the old energy source, NextEra Energy has been selected by power purchaser Puget Sound Energy to build the first phase of the Clearwater Wind Farm. Unfortunately, the workers in Montana are being left behind on this project, with local jobs and economic opportunity having been replaced by low performance, low-skilled, and low-wage out-of-state contractors.

While Puget Sound Energy has explicitly expressed a preference for a Community Workforce Agreement to secure good paying local jobs, the owner of the Clearwater Wind Farm, Florida-based NextEra Energy, has instead begun to import their workforce from out of state and are hiring construction firms with poor safety records and documented workplace violations.

As a local ironworker, I am writing on behalf of my brothers and sisters, and all local workers, who have been denied local employment as a result of these practices. The Northwest Iron Workers are proud to stand with numerous partners in the local community, including Laborers’ International Union of North America Local #1686, International Operating Engineers Local 302, Laborers Local #1686, Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, Blue Green Alliance, and Certified Electrical Workers of Washington; Together, we represent a broad coalition of working Montanans who believe local projects demand local investment and local jobs.

We know that high-road labor standards in Montana are vital to boosting our local economy and to protecting the safety of the workers on essential projects. We also know that to successfully transform our energy economy, we must end the displacement of local workers and halt the creation of a race to the bottom in this quickly expanding industry.

As the owner of the Clearwater Wind Farm, NextEra Energy is failing Montanans by refusing to invest in our local workforce. Instead, they have partnered with Blattner Energy, an out-of-state contractor with numerous safety violations on its record. How can NextEra seek to profit from our community’s land and natural resources while denying honest wages and safety protections to the hard-working people of Montana?

We respectfully urge your publication and your readers to support high-road labor standards and to protect local employment on the Clearwater Wind Farm. Let NextEra Energy know that respect is not given, it is earned.

Jim Wonnacott is business manager of Iron Workers Local Union 732, covering Idaho and Montana.

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